Scientists Are Leading Notre Dame’s Restoration—And Probing Mysteries Laid Bare By Its Devastating Fire

“Notre Dame will be restored! Its artwork, stone, and stained glass will be cleaned; it will be more luminous and beautiful than before.”

Published: Mar 12, 2020
Length: 14 minutes (3,674 words)

How NASA has kept Apollo moon rocks safe for 50 years

I’m not allowed to touch the moon rocks.

In the room where NASA stores the samples that Apollo astronauts brought to Earth decades ago, I peer at rocks and trays of dirt through glass. But my tour guides are firm: Nobody touches the moon rocks.

Published: Jul 15, 2019
Length: 14 minutes (3,500 words)

Microscopic Menagerie

On microbes and animals as composite beings:

In recent years, research has shown that what people commonly think of as “their” bodies contain roughly 10 microbial cells for each genetically human one. The microbial mass in and on a person may amount to just a few pounds, but in terms of genetic diversity these fellow travelers overwhelm their hosts, with 400 genes for every human one. And a decent share of the metabolites sluicing through human veins originates from some microbe. By these measures, humanity is microbial.

But numbers are just the beginning.

Published: Dec 27, 2013
Length: 9 minutes (2,489 words)

Familiar Faces

On “super recognizers” — a small group of individuals with the ability to recognize nearly every face they have ever seen. Super recognizers are being studied to see if their recognition skills can be taught to other people:

“Police officers also may draw upon perceptional ability to ID suspects. Josh P. Davis, a psychologist at the University of Greenwich in London, is studying a group of police officers in London to see how perceptional ability aids in recognizing faces pulled from closed-circuit camera images. Davis began studying the officers for super recognition abilities after hearing of their near-superhuman perception abilities to match faces from such images.

“Only months after setting up his program to study the officers, riots broke out across London. A core group of 20 officers were able to ID more than 600 suspects from grainy and incomplete images collected by security cameras. One officer alone accounted for 190 identifications, pulling from memory faces he had seen before. In many cases, rioters wore heavy disguises — using scarves, bandannas, and hooded sweatshirts to protect their identities — leaving only the eyes visible. Tests of the 20 officers confirmed at least five are super recognizers, Davis says.”

Published: Aug 23, 2013
Length: 12 minutes (3,072 words)